We have all heard the saying 'what you see is what you get…' but did you know the brain can't tell the difference between what is imagined and what is an actual event (reality) ... This is why Visualisation is becoming a growing mindful practice for creating a calmer and more empowered mindset.
Visualisation is nothing new; elite sportspeople, top 500 CEOs, surgeons, and entertainers all have a version of Visualisation in their mental toolkit to bring out the best in themselves. In particular, the visualisation process is something many professional sportspeople regularly use as part of their mental training, preparing their minds to achieve their sporting goals. And this technique can apply to your everyday life, your little wins and matches in your own life.
There is growing research on how the mind can't tell the difference between what is imagined and reality. For example, Neuroscientists at Harvard taught a simple 5-fingered combination of piano notes to a group of people – thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, little finger – which they played over and over again for 2 hours a day. They did this for 5 consecutive days. Another group of volunteers didn't play the notes but just imagined playing them. They imagined the combination – thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, little finger – for 2 hours a day on five consecutive days.
The researchers examined the volunteers' brains each day using a TMS technique (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). They found little or no difference between the brains of those who played the notes with their fingers (reality) and those who played the notes in their minds (visualised).
So what exactly does visualisation mean, and how can you implement it into your day to day. Visualisation is a technique whereby you focus on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal, it can also include positive affirmations and self-hypnosis.
This process of creating mental imagery helps you in several ways. Firstly, you start to articulate in your mind an outcome or event you want for yourself, the steps needed to get you there can become clearer, and finally you are setting down a blueprint in your mind of what you want.
We day in and day out visualise, daydream, and zone out, and often this can be negative thoughts and imagery rather than what we want in our life. What if we flipped it – and decided to focus on positive, calmer thoughts and outcomes for ourselves …. Imagine trying to think about only the things you want to come true. By making visualisation and self-hypnosis part of your daily routine, you can start to notice changes to your mindset over time.
Use Visualisation as a powerful technique for refining self-image and imagining positive scenes and outcomes, working to create more positive attitudes and behaviours for yourself.
Here are some helpful tips to getting started with Visualisation :
1. Visualisation gets you clear on what you want
Begin by writing down your Visual Goal or Vision; this process helps you to create goals and get clarity on what you want in your life. By writing down your goals, you also get clear on what motivates you and what direction you want.
After you write your goals down – write a few sentences on what that would ‘look’ like. Write in as much detail as possible. Build a mental picture of your goal. Describe in as much detail a situation that reflects you achieving your goal. Make the scene relatable and authentic to you - make it as realistic as you can - build the scene - what are you wearing, who is there, what is the room or surroundings you are in like? Adding a date or timeframe to your visualised goal gives your mind a directive to start making it happen. Repeat your Visualisation as often as you can - build your new neural pathways.
Often people get overwhelmed with where to start; a great tip is to think of the different aspects of an enjoyable life eg, Health & Exercise, Friendships, Hobbies, Travel, Romance, etc. Start with one area first – get clear on the goal/goals in that area.
2. Visualisation is Mental Training and a technique to create your own virtual reality
What makes Visualisation even more compelling is that it is thought that your mind cannot tell the difference between Visualisation (an event you imagine in your mind) compared to an actual real-life occurrence or event. And since the mind controls the body, it causes a similar physiological reaction to imaginary experiences as to real experiences.
3. Make positive Visualisation a habit for you and change your brain
The neuroscientific community continues to demonstrate the plasticity of our brains and that we can change our brains during our lifetime. Our brains continue to reform and rewire itself based on how much or how little the neural pathways are used. That means that we can, for example, learn new behaviours or change our mindset by building new neural pathways.
There is a saying that goes, “cells that fire together, wire together”. In essence, it means that the best way to learn or create new behaviours for ourselves is by doing a new task a few times so that the neurons work together and essentially bond - when you merge that with the idea that our brains cannot decipher between what is imagined and what is real, you can see how the power of Visualisation as a mental training tool. Visualisation works best by repeating these images repeatedly, every day.
4. Create a vision board
Vision boards aren’t just for creatives and school projects. Regardless of age, people respond to visual cues. Focus on your goals by creating a vision board for yourself, and place it somewhere you will see every day.
You can focus on one aspect of your life, such as physical health, or create a more general vision board. Do what feels right for you. The emotion is important – do what makes you feel inspired and excites you.
Cutting out pictures and pinning them on your board isn’t just for the young ones it should be a lifelong practice to give you focus and clarity.
Visualisation helps get clarity and focus, creating the details of what you want – for example, see yourself walking on the dream beach you’ve always wanted to visit, imagine yourself laughing, catching up with friends at the local café, or learning to play the piano. Creating goals and dreams has no age limit.
As you fill in the details of your mental imagery, you start the process in your mind of working out what is needed to take to get you there, so Visualisation helps you with your outcome or goal, but it also helps with the process, it crystallises your ideas into reality and the steps to get you there.
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